Former Wallabies star Will Genia has urged selectors to tread carefully with their handling of Waratahs No.10 Tane Edmed after his sensational rise this season.
New South Wales have exceeded expectations this campaign and Edmed has been one of the Super Rugby Pacific’s biggest success stories after coming into the starting team in round six and consolidating his position.
The Wallabies playmaker role is creating plenty of debate five weeks out from the first Test against England with Quade Cooper expected to play some of the domestic Tests, James O’Connor injured and Edmed and Noah Lolesio in good form.
Speaking on The Roar Rugby podcast Genia, who was capped 110 times for the Wallabies, said Edmed should be given time to reach consistent performances with the risk being considerable if rushed in before he’s ready.
“I think he’s been very, very good but I think it would be detrimental to him to chuck him in there and say ‘we want you to play or sit on the bench’,” Genia said.
“It’s really important that you temper your ambitions for players. You can stunt a player’s development if you chuck them in there too early.
“Obviously playing good consistent rugby at a good level for the Waratahs, the focus should be let’s keep him at that level to be able to perform consistently week in week out maybe for a year or two, bring him into the squad, have him see what it’s like to be at this level, what it takes to train at this level and what it takes to perform at this level, and then go from there.
“An England series is massive. These types of series can make or break people’s careers. Go well and it gives you a reputation of being a big-game player. Or it goes the other way and it can destroy you.
“Someone like him, just keep allowing him to grow, develop and get better. As well as he’s playing, he’s only played six or seven games at this level. It’s a bit unfair to expect too much too soon.
“He’s made of tough stuff and you see that in his performances. But you’ve just got to be really careful in managing expectations.”
Genia said when he came into international rugby in 2009 his first four games were off the bench, with staggered playing time.
“It’s amazing how much it does for you to be able to learn what it takes to be at that level and then gradually increase your minutes and move into a starting position,” Genia said.
“Maybe it is a case of you bring him in and he comes off the bench but [he’s not had] many games starting at Super Rugby level and I promise you Test level is a huge step up.
“Especially when you come up against England who are a world class team.
“And Eddie’s a smart coach. The one thing with Eddie is he will know how to target certain weaknesses in individuals and teams for the benefit of his side.”
England will likely go with a young flyhalf in Marcus Smith, but Genia pointed to the difference in experience levels between him and Edmed.
Smith has only played 10 Tests but 120 games for Harlequins.
“That foundation can’t be understated,” said Genia. “Playing for Harlequins you’re playing at high level, playing against the best players in Europe.
“That gives you a foundation to your game where you can continue to grow and learn. That makes that issue of transition into Test rugby a little bit easier.
“It paints a picture as far as talking about Tane. He’s played seven or eight games at this level and then a huge jump to play against England, the World Cuup finalist in 2019.
“I really think those expectations need to be managed for the players’ sake, for his welfare, for his continued growth.”
“It’s human nature to think about that sort of stuff,” he said on Wednesday.
“It’s hard not to because obviously everyone wants to be in that position. I’d love to be wearing the 10 jersey for the Wallabies.
“But in saying that I’ve been trying not to think about it and focus on each week and winning games for the Tahs because as a 10 that’s our job, to manage games and get those wins.
“As much as it would be nice to be in a Wallabies jersey I’m really trying hard to focus on each week and getting better and winning games for the Tahs and that sort of stuff will look after itself.”
Genia has just finished a season playing alongside Quade Cooper in Japan and had some excellent insights into his long time friend as he prepares to return to the Wallabies fold.
Genia also talked about other key selections looking ahead to the England series, saying Nic White was a lock at No.9 and calling for Jock Campbell to be given a shot at fullback.
“Nic White has been outstanding all season. It gives a little bit of freedom to pick someone like Noah if Quade isn’t available because the Brumbies play off 9 because of the amount of experience Nic has,” Genia said.
“That can translate to the Test arena as well. You can rely on Nic to be able to control the game a little bit more while giving Noah a bit more freedom. If you then pick Samu on the outside it’s like a buffer – you’ve got a cushion of a world class 12, world class 9 and your 10 can basically just do the simple things.”
As for the No.15 jersey, Genia said: “like the look of Jock Campbell. He’s had to bide his time and get the experience of playing good consistent rugby at Super level.
“He’s got that foundation. He’s got the amazing ability to always beat the first defender, he’s strong through the hips and exceptionally quick.
“The thing I like about him is he’s a natural fullback in that he’s a good kicker of the ball and understands when to kick and how to kick.
“Coming up against a team like England that will be very important because they like to play a lot of territory but, then you don’t want to give them the ball aimlessly, so having someone at the back there who understands space, understands fullback play, will make a big difference.
“I would love to see him get an opportunity. The guys who play fullback, obviously Banksy and Hodgey in years just gone by, I don’t think they’ve fully taken the opportunity.
“Having a traditional fullback against England will make a big difference. He does the simple things and basics really well. He takes his high balls , he knows where to inject himself and play from the fullback position and he doesn’t make many mistakes.”
Will Genia will be returning as a columnist for The Roar for the Rugby Championship.